Launching a dementia drop-in a city centre location
In 2022, thanks to a small grant, we were looking at ways to reach people who hadn’t heard of us before.
Having worked in various suburbs in Nottingham we were aware that there are people across the city who need support, so we decided to try hosting a drop-in morning in Nottingham city centre.
Following the success of the first session held in November 2022 when ten people came, the drop-in is now running once a month.
Location, location, location
Nottingham has a great public transport system, with reliable buses and trams that connect in the city centre. But where could we host a drop-in, that would offer a safe, accessible space, drinks and cake with an element of privacy, all at a price we could afford?
I knew of a community enterprise in the city centre so I approached them to see what space they could offer. Tiger Community Hub has a café space, a shop selling upcycled products alongside practical homemade items and runs a variety of craft and self-help sessions.
Tiger is well placed for public transport links and a nearby street offers Blue Badge parking. Their activity space has a kitchen table style layout that was exactly what I was looking for. Toni, the brains behind Tiger, offered us a great deal and I booked in to host the first drop-in there in November 2022.
Spreading the word
With the venue and date set, the next challenge was to spread the word. Previous experience of promoting dementia related activities has proven that it’s necessary to do a little bit of everything so that’s what I did.
Traditional posters and fliers delivered to community venues including leisure centres, GPs, libraries and places of worship, both in the city centre and in various suburbs, worked alongside social media posts on Facebook and Twitter.
I’ve been on local radio and even had a stall at a dementia-friendly panto performance at Nottingham Playhouse. Oh yes, I have!
Tiger have been great at spreading the word too. They promote all their events on Facebook and Twitter and have added ours to their calendars. They also have a poster in their window. But most helpfully, they talk to people who come into the hub and, where appropriate, encourage them to come to the drop-in.
Whilst the need for promotion has slowed now the drop-in is established, I still look for opportunities that will help me to reach new audiences. This has included connecting with GP alliances and social prescribing networks on Twitter and presenting to the Health and Wellbeing Hub team who run information and advice stalls in community settings across Nottinghamshire.
The work pays off
From the first drop-in in November 2022 to the most recent one in March 2023, I’ve been heartened by the response I’ve had. 15 people attended the most recent drop-in. Although different people come each month, a core group seems to be emerging. It’s encouraging that people come back month after month as they must be finding the sessions enjoyable and helpful.
We have a mix of people coming including people living with dementia, sometimes with their partners, as well as family members and friends. Sometimes people we’ve known for some time and who’ve engaged with other activities we’ve run come, but mostly the drop-in is attracting people who’ve never heard of Trent Dementia before.
With no set activities, the drop-in provides a space for people to chat over drinks and food. I greet people, find out a little about their circumstances and encourage them to leave contact details if they’d like to. I also link people up to talk about similar experiences such as taking on the household finances once a partner becomes unable to manage them anymore and offer information on other groups and services in the area.
Trent Dementia’s approach is to respond to the needs expressed by people affected by dementia. To do this, we must listen to their experiences. What the drop-in has proved (as we already knew from other services we offer) is that space to meet with other people and talk is the most valuable thing we can offer. People express feelings of isolation, loneliness and the challenge of adjusting to how life looks now. They appreciate the sense of community that attending groups like the drop-in gives.
“Coming here today and talking with other people has made me realise that my partner’s condition is quite progressed and being in the care home is the right thing for them” Partner of a person living with dementia who has recently moved into a care home.
“I’m still trying to work out what my life looks like now” Partner of a person who was living with dementia who died a few years ago.
It’s fair to say that the food – soup, bread and cake – is well received too.
The benefits of working with Tiger
Working with Tiger has been great for the drop-in, for several reasons:
- Promoting the drop-in – Tiger promote the drop-ins, in person to customers and on social media. One person has come after seeing the poster in the window and another comes following chatting with Toni in the café,
- Offering a warm (literally and figuratively) and friendly welcome – the Tiger team are the first point of contact as people arrive, signposting people to the activity space,
- Providing two to three extra pairs of hands – as the only paid person at the drop-in, things can get hectic for me, so having the Tiger team on hand to deliver drinks and food really helps,
- Food and drinks all sorted – it’s great that we can offer a free meal to people at the drop-in and Tiger provide excellent, great value food,
- Space to overflow – given the numbers attending, the drop-in can get quite noisy so it’s great that there’s the café space to overflow into which can provide a quieter place to chat in smaller groups,
- Opportunities to collaborate – in January drop-in attendees decorated glass jars to be part of Tiger’s Light Night installation and I’ve joined in networking events held in the venue.
From the number of people attending the drop-in and the number returning each month, several things are clear.
One, meeting in a city centre venue works. People are happy and able to travel into a central location thanks to the good transport links Nottingham has.
Two, there’s a need for people affected by dementia to meet, to share experiences and concerns and to be heard by others.
Three, sessions like the drop-in give organisations like Trent Dementia the opportunity to gather shared experiences of the everyday impact of living with a dementia diagnosis. These can be used to inform and educate interested audiences such as those newly diagnosed, healthcare professionals and service providers.
Four, working with a local community hub has huge benefits outside of hiring the space.
Suzanne Osborne is a project worker at Trent Dementia and a freelance copywriter. A people-centred person, Suzanne uses the skills and experiences she’s gained in previous work in libraries, customer service and charities to inform her work today, always looking for opportunities to promote services, create networks and link people to information and services that are appropriate and beneficial to them.